Skyborg demonstrates unmanned-unmanned autonomous teaming at Orange Flag

The Skyborg team conducted a multi-hour flight test on Oct. 26, 2021, of the Skyborg autonomy core system aboard two General Atomics MQ-20 Avenger tactical unmanned vehicles during the Orange Flag 21-3 Large Force Test Event at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

Skyborg is focused on demonstrating an open, modular, government-owned ACS that can autonomously aviate, navigate, and communicate, and eventually integrate other advanced capabilities.

“These operational experimentation tests continue to demonstrate emerging technologies and helps the enterprise posture to transition this capability to the warfighter while preparing for the high-end fight,” said Brig. Gen. Dale White, Program Executive Officer for Fighters and Advanced Aircraft, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center.

This experimentation event built upon the basic flight autonomy behaviors demonstrated at OF 21-2. The flight demonstrated matured capabilities of the ACS that enabled two MQ-20s to fly autonomously while communicating with each other to ensure coordinated flight. Additionally, the aircraft responded to navigational commands, stayed within specified geo-fences, and maintained flight envelopes. Both aircraft were monitored from a ground command and control station.

“We have made tremendous progress in transforming ideas to reality in a short time frame. The team has continued the full court press to mature a Government-owned autonomy core and develop the foundational technologies for a future capability,” said Maj. Gen. Heather Pringle, Air Force Research Laboratory commander.

The test community, especially the 412th Test Wing, has been instrumental in helping to integrate government-owned autonomy into operational test events. These test events facilitate trust between the warfighter and autonomous technologies to help inform future operational use cases.

“Large force testing of autonomous unmanned-unmanned teaming is the natural evolution to fielding warfighter capability for the future fight,” said Brig. Gen. MatthewHiger, 412th Test Wing commander at Edwards.

Future Skyborg experimentation events will explore direct manned-unmanned teaming between manned aircraft and multiple ACS-controlled unmanned aircraft.

The Skyborg Vanguard team is a unique relationship that pairs Maj. Gen. Heather Pringle, commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory as the Skyborg Technology Executive Officer and Brig. Gen. Dale White, Program Executive Officer for Fighters and Advanced Aircraft as the Skyborg PEO. The Emerging Technologies Combined Test Force, under the leadership of Lt. Col. Adam Brooks, serves as the executing agent for these test missions at the 412th Test Wing, commanded by Brig. Gen. Matthew Higer at Edwards.

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